D’Angelo Center a long time coming

During my time at St. John’s, I’ve witnessed this university move away from its roots as a commuter school
to one that is more residential.

Over the last three and a half years, the University has expanded and overhauled the Queens campus, adding new dormitories both on and off campus and revamping the library and Carnesecca Arena. Most notable though, is the construction of the massive $77-million structure known as the D’Angelo Center.

This new University Center is much needed on campus. Not only will it provide more space for the many student organizations, it will also be a place where commuters and residents can come together. The D’Angelo Center boasts 14 classrooms and a new dining area, which will hopefully ease the crowdedness that is often seen in other
spaces like Marillac Cafeteria.

Over the last year and a half, the ongoing construction of this new building was oftentimes frustrating for students who had to navigate their way around large mounds of dirt and blocked-off pathways. But, it is essential that St. John’s is able to compete with other institutions of higher education and attract the best students that it can. It may seem shallow, but the fact that a university looks good could have a huge impact on a potential student’s decision to attend school here. For that reason, the construction was necessary.

However, the University should not have aimed for a fall 2009 opening. Last year, University officials stated that the new D’Angelo Center was on target to open in August 2009, just in time for the beginning of the fall semester. But August 2009 came and went and I, like many other students here on campus, was not very surprised that the new UC wasn’t ready on time. With a building of this size, completion can often drag on past the predicted date. State inspection requirements can be a lengthy process that takes months to complete.

The opening date of the D’Angelo Center was pushed back multiple times during the semester and is currently scheduled to open on Dec. 7. But this is so close to the last day of class (Dec. 9) that students aren’t going to have much of a chance to make use of the building.

In a March 2009 Torch artice, Ibi Yolas, executive director of Design and Construction said that classes would not be scheduled in the D’Angelo Center for the fall semester: “We couldn’t afford to schedule all the classrooms and in the event something goes wrong then we would have major problems on our hands,” she said. So then why did the University keep aiming for a fall 2009 opening?

Students have experienced first-hand the problems that can arise from ambitious construction projects on campus. Take the St. John’s library, for example. In June 2008, riser pipes, responsible for carrying water throughout the building to provide air conditioning, leaked and flooded various parts of the building. The remodeling of the third and fourth floors caused intense vibrations to these pipes, which pushed back the opening of the library from August until October, the Torch reported in August 2008. In that article, Theresa Maylone, University librarian, stated: “We’ve had flooding throughout the building for years. But as the construction on the third and fourth floors of the library went on, the vibrations from that gave way to more flooding.” During that period, there was no public access to the print collections, although library staff could retrieve books
for students and faculty.

While the construction of the townhouses was completed on time for move-in day for the fall 2008 semester, many of the students who moved in dealt with dirty floors, damaged windows and leaking heating units.

It is for these reasons that the Torch has continually told the University to hold off on opening the new University Center during the fall 2009 semester. Given the nature of the construction industry and the University’s track record with previous construction projects, it would have been wise for St. John’s not to rush it’s most valuable construction project.

“At any given time, something could get delayed, which could have an impact on the schedule,” said Brij Anand, vice president of Facilities, in a March 2009 Torch article.

The University should have taken into account the fact that the unexpected could happen, and aimed for a spring 2010 opening instead.